Mad for…John

Christ has no body on earth but yours, no hands but yours, no feet but yours. Yours are the eyes through which Christ’s compassion for the world is to look out; yours are the feet with which He is to go about doing good; and yours are the hands with which He is to bless us now. (St. Teresa of Avila)

My handsome husband, Tom, has this large extended family. In fact, he’s the youngest of 19 grandchildren born to Fred and Josephine Thieme. There are so many terrific human beings in that group of folks, and today is the birthday of another sharp looking, lake-loving Thieme guy– John Thieme. He’s the son of the late John and Carol Thieme of Lafayette and also like my husband, Tom’s cousin, John, is an accountant by trade.

Welcoming, amiable and kind, John is quick to offer a smile and a friendly word to all. After his beautiful wife Kathy passed away, leaving him a single dad to four young children, John met and married a lovely woman named Debbie. Together, the two of them raised 6 children in a big, faith-filled blended family where they made it their job to see to the needs of those young people. My respect for them both is immense. They are both supportive as parents and incredibly loving. Also, they are now grandparents! I’m not sure how quickly those numbers are expanding, but I suspect John will have MANY grandchildren in fairly short order. He’s pictured above with his granddaughter, Kathryn Ghazarian, who lives in California. Isn’t that just the sweetest shot of the two of them together?

There’s something about me that draws me to people who are genuine- they have a magnetic quality. To me, men like John are warriors in this world, because folks who do good because it’s the right thing to do, who are brave enough to take responsibility…those are the real badasses in my book. John is a salt of the earth sort of man. He works hard, and also knows how to laugh over a few beers. He’s authentic in every way possible and seems honestly interested when you speak to him. He’s a helper. John Thieme is a man who does and says the things he actually believes. There’s nothing showy or arrogant about John. He’s a likable man of integrity. Period. End of sentence.

Today is John’s birthday, so I just wanted to give him a little shout out. His positivity and sunny smile make the world a brighter place. I hope your day has been a great one, John, because you deserve the special treatment! HAPPY BIRTHDAY, JOHN THIEME!

Mad for…Kathy

How beautiful a day can be when kindness touches it. (George Elliston)

This morning as we travel to my hometown to celebrate Christmas with my side of the family, it’s impossible to miss the glorious, unseasonably warm winter day. It’s not often that it’s 61 degrees on December 26th! Nostalgia sometimes overtakes me, and I suppose that’s why I have the winters of my youth on my mind as we make the drive an hour north to Lafayette. The winter I frequently remember for it’s remarkable blizzard when I was a little girl happened in the winter of 1978. It always makes me think of my old friend, Kathy (Hunckler) Cahoon.

Goodness, that winter looked a whole lot different than today does!! That fateful day when the incredible snow storm took us all by surprise, my kind and beautiful friend Kathy had come to stay for a sleepover. She ended up staying quite a bit longer than she expected— there was no one going anywhere that week! I can’t recall exactly how we filled our time, but I remember Kathy and her famous pigtails, joyfulness and that we had a ball! She always had a wide grin and a positive attitude. In grade school at St. Lawrence, my memories of Kathy include her goodness, and also I recall her being incredibly bright!

We ended up attending Lafayette Central Catholic together, and then we kind of headed separate ways and I lost track of her a bit. In more recent years, I caught back up with her through a few conversations with her brother Paul as well as happen chance sightings at Guerin Catholic vs. LCC sporting events. For instance, we ran into Kathy tailgating at GCHS when our son was playing football for GC and her daughter was on the LCC team, and I was instantly reminded of her natural warmth and welcoming spirit! She spotted me and I was wrapped up in her big hug and greeted by her authentic, joyful smile!

I have no doubt that Kathy’s children and her husband, Chad, have a supportive, loving and truly thoughtful woman in their midst every day. It’s simply who she has always been!

Today, I find myself wanting Kathy to know that she was a special friend to me because of the way she always made me feel like I mattered. Her authenticity and generosity of spirit made a difference. I would bet it still does for everyone with whom she interacts. Kathy is just a salt of the earth sort of human who laughs easily and smiles big. Our world needs as many folks like her as we can get. Merry Christmas to you, Kathy…and to your entire family!

Mad for…Roger

May we be in this world a ray of that light which shone forth from Bethlehem, bringing joy and peace to all men and women. (Pope Francis)

In my volunteer role on the Gospel of Life council at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Catholic Church, I perform all sorts of non-glamorous tasks. Most of them seem to involve logistics work— like organizing data, writing copy, or making phone calls. It was in this capacity that I first heard the name Roger Helmkamp. You see, OLMC was teaming up with nearby St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish to bring in a speaker for a couple of days to talk to folks about mindfulness. It was a joint attempt to help folks work on their mental health and anxiety issues in a meaningful way, with their faith at the center of the effort. My initial interactions revealed quickly that Roger is a friendly, good-hearted man with an excellent sense of humor. Also, he’s totally on the ball.

A few weeks later, I met Roger in person for the first time. He was present, attending to the needs of family and friends for the showing and funeral mass of my very dear friend, Karen Volpe. During a difficult and emotional couple of days, there was Roger making sure everything went off thoughtfully and without a hitch.

When I ran into this amiable, handsome guy at my nearby Kroger a few weeks ago, he went out of his way to say hello and re-introduce himself. He was out of context and it took me a moment to register his face, but it came to me quickly as he began to speak.

As I began to think this morning about who I wanted to write about today, I decided it would be fitting to write about a man who spends his days working for the rest of us, helping us on our journey to know and love the Lord a little better. I am not sure how many folks realize the hours and effort it takes to pull off Advent and Christmas in a Catholic parish. When you take the normal workload, and add to it the preparations and expectation of the season— it can be a bit overwhelming. These parish employees are the ones largely responsible to keep the boat floating. They are not getting rich doing this work either. Often, their service is overlooked or simply taken for granted. Today, I wanted to give a little shout out to one of these folks- a competent, articulate, positive thinker named Roger.

Here’s what I wanted to say to him this Christmas Eve day. Roger, you are a good man who is spending your days being the face of Jesus to others, and I’m thankful to have met you this year! What you do matters. You are that ray of light Pope Francis is encouraging us all to be, by the way you live your life. I suspect your family already knows how blessed they are to have you in their days, because you are clearly a man of integrity! Merry Christmas!!

Mad for…Tricia

Then give the world the best you have, and the best will come back to you. (M. Bridges)

Many moons ago, for a very brief time, I worked in the marketing department at a local home improvement company called Bee Window. It was in that role that I met a talented, articulate media sales pro named Tricia Theisen. If memory serves, we were buying Purdue sports from Learfield Communications through her.

In any case, I shared with Tricia over lunch that I was keeping my eyes out for a professional opportunity that would be a better fit for my skill set and she said, “Oh gosh! I actually have another customer that is looking for someone and I think you would be perfect! Let me make a call.”

That kindness (and providential timing) is how I ended up spending the next 10 years as the communications director for RE/MAX of Indiana. In that role, I bought media, handled public relations and a variety of others tasks. Most importantly, learned a lot and met some terrific folks— including a dear friend named Donna to whom I remain quite close all these years later. This was all the result of a simple act of selflessness by a joyful, bright woman I didn’t really even know that well yet!

I got to know Tricia better as time progressed, because she continued to call on me in my new role. I learned about her deep love and affection for her Xavier University loving husband, Greg, as well as her two young children, Kathleen and Patrick. We did a lot of talking about our kids, including their successes as well as our concerns for them. I admired and respected Tricia for the honest and authentic way she shared about her life and family. Her strong faith was clear and apparent, and she was active and involved in her parish. She was then and is now a woman of character and integrity.

If memory serves, Tricia is originally from New York (although my memory is unreliable so if I have that wrong, Tricia, I apologize)! She lives in Noblesville now and her children are grown. As her son, Patrick, struggled with his health in more recent years, I learned about his fight through mutual friends and I began praying for him. He’s a very blessed young man to have such a caring, prayerful and supportive mom. She’s sunny, positive and full of the love of the Lord— and that is EVERYTHING! I hear Pat is doing well now! Thank you, God.

My oldest son is now a senior at Xavier University. He’s loved his experience as a Muskie, and actually plans to stay in Cincy to live and work after graduation in May. It seems like a hot second ago that we were the family of an incoming freshman, gathering together at a local restaurant in Indy— being welcomed at the event by none other than my old friend Tricia and her handsome hubby, Greg. She went above and beyond the call of duty to be helpful and welcoming, because that is just who she is!

Last night as the 5 of us were watching the Muskies beat up on TCU, I marveled at how quickly time passes. This kid who wasn’t even born yet when I met Tricia is now graduating from X in a few months. What the heck!? It made me think of Tricia, and I felt gratefulness. She has been the face of Jesus to me numerous times over the years. I mean it when I say she is just a giant scoop of awesome sauce!

So today, as Christmas approaches, I wanted to take a moment to give a shout out to my old friend, Tricia Theisen. She’s someone who fills the world with sunshine. Her smile makes her eyes twinkle. She’s got a great sense of humor, and her enormous heart is absolutely impossible to miss. This crazy world is so much better because she’s here in it with us! Thank you for your witness of what it means to be a woman of compassion and character by the way you live your life each day.

Merry Christmas, Tricia…and Let’s Go X!!

Mad for…Mary

The Lord looked into the depth of my being with great kindness; I thought I would die for joy under that gaze. (St. Faustina)

A bright smile, playful spirit and kind heart were always the defining qualities to me about Mary Zimmerman. She’s one of six amazing children born to my friends John and Tina Zimmerman.

Mary grew up near St. Louis de Montfort Catholic Church, in Fishers, Indiana and the parish school was part of her life too as a youngster. When she left grade school and then graduated from Bishop Chatard High School, she headed off to Dayton, Ohio where she spent a few years as a Dayton Flyer. It was no surprise to me when her mom shared with me that she decided to cheer for the Flyers at UD, because this young lady was always joyful and filled with spirit!

I’ve read it said that “a good teacher is like a candle- it consumes itself to light the way for others”, and if there’s as much truth in that sentiment as I believe, then it’s unsurprising that Mary would decide to become a teacher. I suspect that she’s an incredibly positive force in her daily work with students in her classroom. She’s one of those people for whom it comes naturally to be the face of Jesus to those around her.

I’ve watched from afar over the years as Mary lovingly supports her siblings and parents, I’ve noticed her loving up the nieces and nephews, and I even watched her crush the “summer nanny” gig back in the day. She’s a character and integrity filled woman of God with a great sense of humor and a welcoming heart. All those folks now in her daily orbit two hours away in Ohio…? I hope you know what a gem you’ve got in Mary!!

Today is Mary’s birthday and I just wanted to take a moment before Christmas excitement overtakes us all to give her a little birthday shout out! I see you over there, Mary Z! Wishing you a wonderful day and a very blessed Christmas surrounded by the many people who love you like crazy!!

Thank you for always leaving whatever place you’re in just a little better for having been there. You are a phenomenal woman with a glorious soul! Happy Birthday and Merry Christmas!! Today, I’ll be praying in a special way for you, Mary Zimmerman!

Mad for…Steph

Never do the envy, jealousy and insecure stuff. Be the hustler, the well wisher, the go-getter.

Today, I’d like to introduce you to a sunny, beautiful woman named Steph Smith. She’s the wife of an ornery guy who also makes me smile. His name is Ed. I’ve spent a little time with Steph and Ed over the years because they are close friends of my parents, Jim and Kathy Dykhuizen.

Steph is a mover and shaker. No dust settles on this friendly, go-getter! She’s active on the YMCA board and helped get the new Y up and running in my hometown of Lafayette. She’s very involved in her Pickleball group and helped team with the city to get several courts constructed at McCaw Park on the east side of town. She’s a former coach at Lafayette Jeff High School, and also a counselor there. She and Ed are part of Ivy Tech in Lafayette— helping students get their education. Along with Ed’s brothers and spouses their foundation sponsors 25 graduates of Ivy Tech per year with scholarships to Purdue so they can finish their education. How cool is that?

Here’s what else I know about Steph! She’s a loving and supportive mom and grandma, as well as a tailgating rock star! A big Boiler fan, this gal knows her Purdue football and basketball too! As a friend to my mom, Steph is kind, thoughtful and caring. We all want the people we love to have lives surrounded by kind-hearted people of integrity, and Steph is certainly that.

Before she and Ed head back to Bonita Springs after Christmas, I just wanted to give her a little shout out and let her know that I see her awesomeness and think she’s a rock star! Merry Christmas to you and your whole amazing gang, Steph! Thank you for making the world a better place by the way you live your life. You’re flat out impressive.

Mad for…Adam

Life with Christ is a wonderful adventure. (Pope John Paul II)

The Smith family amazes me. They are a large, eclectic, talented and incredibly faith-filled group of humans. Adam is the husband of a compassionate, beautiful woman named Mollie and together they built a stunning family. The whole clan is pictured together, below!

Near the center of the photo, in the plaid shirt is the father of eight, a sunny guy named Adam. This is a man of many talents! I don’t know actually what he’s principally involved in these days, but he’s done work in research and development, and he’s an incredibly gifted artist. Also, I’m fairly certain he’s a shooting instructor, which strikes me as a unique skill set.

Adam is a friendly person. He’s congenial, amiable, funny and kind. He never fails to say hello if I spot him out and about at church or perhaps at Guerin Catholic. He’s very present and supportive as a father. His outgoing, adventurous nature as well as his creative skills have definitely been inherited by many of his children. More importantly than that is the fact that his focus seems to me to be about leading his family in faith. This is ultimately what leads me to write about Adam today.

The Smith clan is impressive. Despite their wide and varying interests, abilities and gifts, the thing that draws others to them is their joyfulness. Hopeful, faithful people are magnets for sure. When we spot the face of Jesus in someone, it draws us in. That’s a fact. No one gets it right all the time, but Adam and his family are high integrity, quality humans who love the Lord. It shows. It attracts. It impresses.

Thanks, Adam, for your broad smile and welcoming ways. I think you are an inspiring and impressive man who makes the world a happier, spicier, more adventurous place to inhabit. Thanks for shining your bright light in my direction! I’m grateful!!

Mad for…Charlie

Last night, I briefly gave the yoga pants a respite and donned a black dress then headed out to the Somerset CPAs Christmas dinner at Maggianos with my handsome guy. The evening was positively frigid outside, but the company was lovely. I ended up spending my evening sitting next to a very friendly guy named Charlie Naber.

Outgoing and jovial are the words I would use to describe my experience with Charlie last night. He’s the husband of a completely lovely woman named Karen and the husband and grandfather of several very blessed humans.

The good-hearted ribbing and banter going on between Charlie and Karen throughout the evening made me smile. You see, his very genuine and sweet wife was eager for Charlie to enjoy his present company and NOT “talk shop” at dinner. Charlie couldn’t help himself, however. It was entertaining to watch their interaction, because despite the disagreement, one could not miss their authentic affection for one another.

Charlie and Karen Naber and one of their donkeys…in a parade? They are dressed as pirates here. I’m not sure why but this makes me smile!!

Knowing he is a Catholic guy and a long-time parishioner at St. Maria Goretti parish in Westfield, I mentioned to Charlie that I was aware of his work with the Little Sisters of the Poor and their St. Augustine Home in Indianapolis. He smiled brightly and shared that the Little Sisters have taught him a lot over the years about trusting in Providence. Charlie is quite obviously a faith-filled guy. He sits on the board of the Trinity Free Clinic as well, a phenomenal place where many uninsured folks are treated each month. It’s located on the campus of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Parish in Carmel at their Merciful Help Center. He’s also got a great smile and positive energy, plus his storytelling is top notch. He’s a salt of the earth sort of man.

Charlie regaled us throughout the evening with everything from his very distinct preferences in PCs, the latest city council meeting he attended, his much adored children and grandchildren, the horses and donkeys on his 23 acre property in Boone County, and of course the aforementioned Little Sisters. I found out that some of my favorite, integrity filled friends, John and Tina Zimmerman, have known the Nabers clan for much longer than I have. It was fun to giggle at his college stories with the mutual friend he calls, “Beaner”. 

I’ll be honest, I left Charlie and was better off than before the encounter. Isn’t that what we should all strive to be for others? By the way he lives his life, it’s clear to me that Charlie Naber is a guy who is genuine, simple, and willing to be Jesus to the family and friends around him. It’s obvious to me that world is a much livelier and warmer place because of this guy, so today’s “Mad for” shout out is for Charlie! Merry Christmas to the entire Naber clan, and thanks for entertaining me last night with your sunny disposition!!

Mad for…Jesus

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. (John 1:14)

Caravaggio’s “Nativity”

Merry Christmas, friends!! I am writing about Jesus today in my “Mad for” series because my son told me I should. Essentially, he said, “Well, you love Jesus a whole lot so I think you should talk about Him on Christmas.” Thanks for noticing, kid. Consider it done.

Bishop Robert Barron said this,
“Through the mystery of the Incarnation, God allows us to participate in the divine life, thereby elevating and sanctifying us.” I am a BIG fan of this holy man, and I couldn’t agree more with his sentiments, which are so articulately and accessibly spoken.

For a few minutes every day this year, I decided I would try in a very intentional way to be the face of Jesus to someone. I wanted to participate in that divine life the good Bishop is speaking about. Since today is all about the Lord, I thought I’d take a moment to explain and hopefully answer the question about why and how it is that I am doing this, in the hope that it spreads. The way I set it up, I gave myself 24 hours to say a kind word or two about just one person, before another 24 hour clock started. That is the way I wanted to travel for my 2019, being an intentionally grateful and affirming person. I just wanted to spread the love of Jesus a little. It seemed like a reasonable goal at the time, and I’m just a few days away now from the end of the line, so we’ll see if God’s plan is for me to finish? I’m not going to lie, I now am fairly invested and would like to finish. The thing is, life comes at us unexpectedly sometimes, so I’m not attached to that outcome. In fact, quite early in the year when I was in the hospital, I wasn’t sure it would last long at all. I was about six weeks into the project and my health situation had been challenging, now I was going to be in a hospital bed a couple days. Then I kind of giggled when I saw the date on my iphone– that day I thought I might give up was the birthday of one of the humans I most respect in all the world. I knew I’d write about him, even if from a hospital bed in drug induced, sketchy, sentence-like format from my cell phone. Do you know why? Because he was the man who helped me find Jesus at my darkest hour. I couldn’t quit on February 21. Nope. It was a sign from the Holy Spirit that I was meant to trust God and keep going forward.

I just think it’d be cool to say I completed the task. What I’ve learned along the way about human nature and also about love itself is pretty much a game changer for me. I’ll probably tell you about that after the year ends. That’s the way it is with Jesus, though. You see, for all my obvious flaws, my heart was in the right place and my aim was pure. I’ve simply been telling the stories about what I’ve experienced Jesus doing in my life through the amazing examples set by the folks around me. Telling it like I see it, the truth as I know it is my aim. Just last week, a friend who has been following along told me that when she reads my posts, she hears appealing vulnerability and joyful words about who Jesus is to us all. I said “Huh? Well good.” I’m so articulate sometimes, ha?

Here’s the truth. “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also must love one another.” (1 John 4:11)

Today is the day love became incarnate, people. It wows and astounds me. The God of the universe came down here and loved us in the most vulnerable, humble way imaginable. He was born in a stable and his parents were a carpenter and a teenage girl. He did this for us. It was pure love. Period. What do you say we do like Jesus and let our lives revolve around loving others? I propose we start immediately. Right now. Yes, I know it’s Christmas Day. Perfect right?! Let’s be the kindest, most welcoming version of ourselves today! That would be a grateful note on which to accept our Savior into our hearts this Christmas season.

We’re all constantly getting little love notes from the Lord in our lives. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, feel free to ask me to share about a few of mine sometime, and be prepared to hear my loud and excited voice— because I want you to recognize His voice in yours more than almost anything!! Some of us hear easier than others, but make no mistake. The God of Heaven and Earth is not just madly in love with us. He came down and humbled Himself in the form of the most vulnerable type of human being because He loves me, Shelly Thieme. And He loves YOU [insert your name here]. He knows your individual heart and He can hear even the prayer you didn’t share, but kept buried inside yourself. That critical voice, the one that says you aren’t enough? That’s NOT Him, people. Our God is compassionate and He is kind. Trusting Him is a great call, just saying.

None of us did anything to earn this life. Whatever love you have to give this year, give it lavishly and maybe even a little recklessly…just like it’s Christmas morning and you are playing the part of Santa Claus to a room full of toddlers!! Today is a joy filled day. I don’t always get it right, but really and truly I love Jesus. My heart aches a touch wishing I could somehow impart in a genuine way just how much I mean that, and what gratefulness for the grace of faith makes me desire. I want to be the woman you feel like you can call any old time without worrying about me being bugged, because you know I’ll be gracious and that I care. I’m hoping you’ll find I treat you like we’re going to spend all eternity together. If I don’t, please forgive me. Chances are solid I just need another hour of sleep or maybe a latte with too much Splenda, and I’ll be as good as new.

I’m hoping the Lord will see my effort and desire and that He’ll pour out His glorious grace on us both, while forgiving my giant mess ups– because we know I’m going to flub up. You might screw up too, but I really do hope that what remains is LOVE. Happy Birthday, Jesus! I love You, please help me love You more!

Christmas is most truly Christmas when we celebrate it by giving the light of love to those who need it most.

Merry Christmas!

Mad for…Mary

Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for your hope. But do this with gentleness and respect. (1 Peter 3:15)

When my son, Drew, was in high school, I remember him deciding to invite Mary Ganser to be his date to a dance. At the time, I wasn’t really aware that sweet Mary was in his friend orbit, to be candid. Therefore, I quizzed him about why she was his “victim”, ha? His reply kind of warmed my heart. He said, “Well, she’s a cheerful person and Mary is too kind to turn me down.” At the end of the day, we all are just looking for the world to treat us charitably, am I right? Mary is a young woman who is both full of life and reliably considerate of others. She was an excellent choice!

Drew was right. Mary said yes. When her sunny mom, Stephanie, glanced up in my kitchen at my very tall son, looked him in the eye and gave him her pre-dance “rules and responsibilities” speech, I smiled and knew at once just how beloved this young lady is to her faith-filled family! She’s incredibly blessed.

Positive, affirming, and full up to her eyeballs with the love of the Lord….that is how I would describe Mary. Though I suspect she doesn’t see it as clearly as those around her do, hers is a life which provides a witness of hope, so present is the gift of grace within her. She’s a student at Belmont University in Nashville, and is a creatively gifted young woman. Mary is amazing with children, because her enthusiasm and playfulness matches theirs. When she was a student at Guerin Catholic, I always looked forward to her participation in any of the fine arts concerts or productions because her inclusion meant a certain joyfulness would be undeniably present.

Mary Ganser is a beautiful young lady with a soul to match, and today is her birthday! Please join me if you have a chance today and give her a birthday shout out. Glorious humans like Mary who take the time to be friendly and thoughtful make this crazy world SO MUCH BETTER! Thank you, Mary, for the lovely example you consistently provide to those around you. You are getting it right, young lady….and I hope that on your special day today you know in your heart what a beloved daughter of the most high God you truly are!! I miss your sweet smile and hope your day is terrific. HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MARY!!